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As summer approaches, it's time once again to remind you that, in my humble opinion, there are no greater wines for the accompaniment of seafood and lighter summer meals than the Melon de Bourgognes of Muscadet! Since the1980s' these vibrant, terroir expressive wines have undergone a dramatic resurgence in quality, through organic farming, hand-harvesting, wild yeast fermentations and extended sur-lie aging becoming some of the world's greatest values in bone-dry, refreshing and intensely mineral-driven wines...
Guy Bossard is one of the great figures of the Loire Valley, having converted his vineyard to organic farming in 1972 and to biodynamic agriculture in 1992, almost alone in rejecting industrial farming in Muscadet at the time. Guy's example was an inspiration to all the growers who have been responsible for the return of superb quality to the great granite-based terroirs of the Pays Nantais. We honor him now as we begin this email with wines from his estate, the Domaine de l'Ecu, now capably run by the creative and innovative Fred Niger Van Herck. Happily Fred has continued to produce the distinctive cuvées produced by Guy, notably the outstanding 2018 "Orthogneiss" and "Granite" offered today. And the estate has evolved and expanded into new realms with its extensive line of Vin de France varietal wines aged in amphora and barrels. At last winter's tasting with Fred, his Muscadets showed beautifully and we were totally captivated by his gorgeous Vin de France Syrah "Aeterno" made in collaboration with David Reynaud of Domaine les Bruyeres in Crozes-Hermitage, part of Fred's series of wines called "Temps des Copains." The grapes are from 70 year-old vines in biodynamic farming on the sandy clay/limestone terraces of "Les Croix." There is a 15 day maceration in concrete tank followed by 9 months in amphorae of 400 and 500 liters, with zero added SO2. The resulting wine is at once deep and fresh, floral and elegant, powerful and long, just a delightful glass of Syrah - we have 30 bottles with hopefully more on the way...
Returning to our regular programming we are once again happy to present a wide variety of great Muscadet from Domaine de la Pépière, founded by our friend Marc Ollivier in 1984 and continuing capably under the talents of Remi Branger and Gwenaëlle Croix. Following the lead of Guy Bossard, Marc began producing single-vineyard, terroir designated bottlings beginning in 1988 with his superb "Clos des Briords," a parcel of old vines on thin clay soils over Granit de Château Thébaud. (Which is still drinking well today, we might add!) Of the wines on offer today, we'd like to point out the superb cellaring capabilities of the 2014 "Clos des Morines," from a great vintage in Muscadet, and the 2015 "Gorges," a brilliant collaboration with Domaine Bregeon from unique Gabbro soils. Along with the 2017 "Clisson," these wines will age beautifully for twenty years and more, and will offer great enjoyment both in their vibrant youth and in their complex and more secondary-flavored maturity. (Note: The last shipment of the wonderful 2018 "Clos des Briords" is on it's way, arriving in mid June - please give our exhasuted staff a break and pre-order by the case only at the current low price.)
A worthy new addition to our list is the 2016 "Vallet" from Stéphane Orieux. Stéphane's father Joseph converted the estate to organic agriculture back in 1967, and Stéphane has continued the great vineyard work, certified by Ecocert. The grapes are hand-harvested, fermentations are with wild yeasts and minimal sulfur is used. The 2016 "Vallet" is from 40-year-old vines on mica schist soils. Hand harvested, then direct press into the classic, underground, glass-lined cement tanks where it fermented naturally with wild yeasts. 30 month sur-lie aging.
The ageless, affable and hard-working Jo Landron keeps turning out superb Muscadet, including some of the finest values in the region such as the dense and mineral-laden 2018 "Les Houx" from a great parcel of thin sandy clay soils, rich with silica, quartz and iron, over a bedrock of gneiss and clay. Kept on the lees for 12 months. Normally one of the most scintillating and mineral of Muscadet, the 2018 is slightly riper and rounder but remains essentially a mouthful of terroir.
Back in 1976, Pierre and Monique Luneau-Papin kept their cuvée "L d'Or" on the lees for ten years, recreating with great success a local tradition from the 19th century. Today many of the top growers in Muscadet practice extended sur-lie aging to increase the complexity and ageability of their wines, such as Pierre-Marie Luneau did with the outstanding 2018 "Terre de Pierre," from a parcel of 45 year-old vines on La Butte de la Roche, a dome of igneous rock with quartz stones and serpentine minerals overlooking the marshes of Goulaine. It's a superb wine showing ethereal aromas of stone, citrus and white fruits, with a dense stony palate showing subtle white fruits with hints of anise and mint, for current drinking or 15 - 20 years of cellaring.
Wines arrive May 29/29, please allow 3 - 5 additional days for processing and local delivery.
Fred Niger made this gorgeous Syrah with grapes from David Reynaud in Crozes-Hermitage ("les Croix") vinified and bottled with zero additives, aged for 9 months in amphora of 400 and 500 liters, less than 200 cases produced. Tasted at the end of a very long day, after many great wines and with a tired palate, the 2018 "Aeterno" was still magnificent! Thanks to Fred's notes, much better than mine: "Intense color, inky black with violet hints.Nose marked by smoky notes of ripe black fruits, of blueberry, violet, white pepper. A supple attack leading to a powerful wine, full palate, opulent and massive, balanced by tannins fine and delicate. The structure of this wine is built around a beautiful northern-Rhône acidity, which brings great freshness. Sensational length." This is a beautiful wine from a great terroir, really an extraordinary expression of Syrah. Carafe when young, drink over the next ten to fifteen years.
The superb Domaine de L'Ecu Orthogneiss is from a 3-hectare parcel with 45-55 year-old vines facing southwest. The top soil is granulous and not very deep (30-50 cm). Sub-soil of orthogneiss, a metamorphosed igneous rock where minerals are arranged in bands, organically farmed since 1975, biodynamic-Demeter certified since 1998. Soil worked manually and yields are kept low. All grapes are hand harvested, gravity fed with no use of pumps. Wild yeast fermentation, minimal SO2 used, aged on the lees in underground vats for 15-18 months. The 2018 Orthogneiss shows a pale gold color and complex ripe aromas of lemon, pineapple, marzipan, dried pear and anise - quite expressive and intriguing. The palate is dense and ripe with citrus, melon, anise and stone fruits backed by very firm lemony acidity and intense saline mineral flavors that continue in the finish. This will accompany full-flavored oysters, but best with fish in sauce, scallops and lobster. Drink this beautiful wine over the next ten years. David Lillie
Guy Bossard is one of the heroes of French viticulture, having rejected modern chemical farming upon assuming the family estate, becoming certified organic in 1972, then progressing to Biodynamic farming in 1996. And this in a region where there was little recognition or financial reward for his intense work and the higher quality of his wines. Guy has been an inspiration for many growers in the region and the estate continues under the capable and imaginative direction of Fred Niger van Herck. The Domaine de l'Ecu "Granite" is always one of the most distinctive of Muscadet, with the Melon de Bourgogne coming from 50-year-old vines in a parcel of stony soils on "granite a deux micas." On the nose, the minerals are boldly pronounced, with notes of almond skins, cantaloupe, Meyer lemon, and sea spray. The palate is a fine mix of lemon zest, saline stones, some under-ripe pear, and white flowers. A gorgeous wine to pair with oysters (of course), langoustines, or Coquille Saint-Jacques. JDC
The 2016 Stephane Orieux (Bregeonnette) "Vallet" is from 40-year-old vines on mica schist soils. Hand harvested, then direct press into underground, glass-lined cement tanks where it fermented naturally with wild yeasts. 30 month sur-lie aging. This is a beautiful Muscadet that has benefitted from the 30 months on the lees, showing classic aromas of lemon verbena, almond, anise, pear, white peach and stone, really lovely. The palate is round and supple but framed in the firm acidity normally present in 2016s, with vibrant citrus and mineral flavors underlying round white fruits, continuing in the long crisp and saline finish. This is lovely now served with sole, cod and haddock, but will accompany fuller flavored fish as well. Drink until 2030 and please serve in a large Bordeaux or Burgundy glass. David Lillie
Jo Landron's 2018 "Les Houx" (formerly known as "Hermine D'Or") is from a great parcel of thin sandy clay soils, rich with silica, quartz and iron, over a bedrock of gneiss and clay. Kept on the lees for 12 months. Normally one of the most scintillating and mineral of Muscadet, the 2018 is slightly riper and rounder but remains essentially a mouthful of terroir. The wine shows lovely aromas of ripe pear, stone and anise that open nicely with aeration. The palate is round and mineral, framed in firm acidity with ripe white fruits, citrus, stone and licorice and there's a nice mineral kick in the finish. Delicious now, this will develop nicely over the next few years, and will accompany oysters and grilled seafood, from flounder to monkfish, roast chicken and mild cheeses. David Lillie
Jo Landron's Fief du Breil is from a beautiful, walled vineyard sloping towards the Sèvre, with clay, sand and quartz stones over a bedrock of orthogneiss. The vines average 40 to 50 years of age, the vineyard is certified organic and biodynamic and gives very low yields. This beautiful wine needs aeration or decanting, then shows aromas of grapefruit skin, pear, lime-flower, candied citrus and almond. The palate is perfectly balanced and intensely mineral - showing ripe white fruits, almond, anise and stone flavors with firm acidity and pronounced flavors of stone and saline mineral. This is a bit more forward than the granite-based wines - really superb as a young wine served with shellfish, grilled fish and roast chicken. As usual with great Muscadet it will age beautifully and pair with monkfish, lobster and goat cheeses. Very little was imported, don't miss it! David Lillie (Oops, most already sold - more is arriving in April.)
(Please note - This is the very last inventory of 2018 "La Pépie" - The 2019 has arrived will be available as well. Tasted last January, it showed a bit more expessive and floral aromas than the 18 and a slightly fuller palate, a different but equally lovely wine and great value!) Domaine de la Pépière 2018 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie "La Pépie" is now from the second bottling, with grapes from older vines that were picked later - the wine is denser with more minerality and acidity than the first bottling - really a delicious and well-structured Muscadet. Don't delay in grabbing a case or two before it disappears...!
(Please note - This is the very last inventory of 2018 "La Pépie" - The 2019 has arrived will be available as well. Tasted last January, it showed a bit more expessive and floral aromas than the 18 and a slightly fuller palate, a different but equally lovely wine and great value!)
Domaine de la Pépière 2018 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie "La Pépie" is now from the second bottling, with grapes from older vines that were picked later - the wine is denser with more minerality and acidity than the first bottling - really a delicious and well-structured Muscadet. Don't delay in grabbing a case or two before it disappears...!
(Note: Pre-Arrival sales by the case only, please!) First produced in 1988, this great Muscadet is made from a three hectare parcel of old massale-selection vines (all over 60 years old, with a high percentage much older) on a slope above the Maine. The bedrock is Granite de Château Thébaud, a fissured rock that allows the vines to penetrate deeply, with ideal thin topsoils of clay, with sand and gravel allowing good drainage. 2018 was a vintage of sunshine despite rains and mildew in the spring that lowered yields. The 2018 "Briords" shows vivid aromas of dried pear, bitter lemon, anise and herbs with surprising hints of exotic fruit backed with earth and mineral notes. The aromatic ripeness is more restrained on the palate which shows beautifully supple and dense pear and ripe apple fruit with quite firm acidity and finishing with nice grip and mineral flavors that linger on the palate. This is a beautiful "Briords," reminding me of 2009 - irresistible now but with enough acidity and structure to be a fabulous mature wine in 2029. Highly recommended! David Lillie
The 2017 "Clisson" reminds us of the superb 2014 - subtle, fine and elegant, and at the same time dense and powerful, yet with only 12.5 % alcohol. The wine shows a very pale bronze color lovely aromas of lemon zest, fresh herbs, stone, almond and dried pear and apple, very elegant, with hints of pineapple, anise and brown spice. The palate shows nice ripeness, density and weight but remains delicate and fresh with pear, citrus zest and intense mineral flavors with a finish that is very long and lemony and slightly astringent with food-friendly minerality. The 2017 Clisson is a delightful wine - serve as often as possible with oysters, little-necks, grilled seafood and roast chicken. Put some in the cellar to enjoy over its 20+ year evolution while enjoying with fish in sauce and shellfish. Thank you Marc, Remi and Gwenaëlle for another beautiful wine!
We're ecstatic to have this superb new Muscadet from Pépière. The product of an exchange of juice with Fred Lailler at Domaine Bregeon (pressed at Bregeon), the wine undergoes a slow fermentation and is then aged 42 months on the lees. Marc Ollivier considers this his favorite of his bottlings right now, along with the Château-Thébaud. From Bregeon's vines on Gabbro with clay topsoil (in conversion to organic) the 2015 Gorges is a complex, dense and beautifully structured wine, with unique aromas showing almond, smoke and petrol notes in addition to stone, pear, quince and mushroom. The palate is dense and intensely mineral with ripe pear and quince, earth, almond, anise and citrus notes, with stone, lemon peel and white fruits lingering in the very long finish. Although vibrant and delicious now, we would recommend waiting for eight to ten years before opening for peak enjoyment. Highly recommended! David Lillie
The Domaine de la Pépière Château Thébaud "Clos des Morines" comes from old vines on a beautiful vineyard with great terroir sloping down towards the river Maine. The granite here (Granit de Château Thébaud, oddly enough) is fissured and permeable by the vine roots which have access to water during dry spells and absorb micro-nutrients along the way. 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015 here were among the best of the vintage in Muscadet and the 2014 will stand out as perhaps the finest yet due to the perfect combination of great density and minerality with the very firm acidity of this superb year for Muscadet - those of you lucky enough to have the 2014 Pépière Clisson in your cellar understand just what a special vintage this is. From Remi Branger at Pépière: "As the wine aged we performed three bâtonnages and after three and a half years sur lie, in April 2018, we decided to bottle it. We then decided to leave it another year in bottle before offering it for sale. For us, the 2014 Château Thébaud is a wine with a great potential for cellaring. In its youth, the wine was very austere but the prolonged élevage sur lie allowed it to develop well and it benefited further from the additional year in bottle. Recent tastings of the wine confirm to us that we made the right choice for the aging, because it has the balance we hoped for with a finish of power and tension."
There's plenty to contemplate about this classic, but expressive Muscadet. This is the flagship wine for Domaine Luneau-Papin from their parcels of 45+ year old vines based on granite in the village of Vallet. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel and spends 9-11 months on the lees to enhance its weight and texture. Whether it's the effect of extended lees aging, or the way the Loire pulls ocean air across the vineyards, the aroma of sea spray and taste of salinity definitely carries through and lingers on your tongue. Notes of freshly cut herbs and juicy, green pear mingle with Meyer lemon zest and crushed river rocks. The acidity is a driving force, but it is by no means a sharp or thin wine. There's still enough density and body to carry it. Of course this would be an excellent pairing for white fish or oysters, but I also found it perfectly matched with a lemony risotto with spring peas and proscuitto! Michelle DeWyngaert
Vera Cruz is a new cuvée from Luneau-Papin, from 40 year-old vines on a terroir of schistes and gneiss "a deux micas" in Vallet, farmed with organic and biodynamic methods. A wine of terroir rather than fruit, even in the ripe 2018 vintage, the wine shows elegant aromas of pear, peach, grilled almond, stone and citrus. The palate is dense and very mineral, showing more flavor of earth than fruit, with a lovely finish of stone, minerals and white fruit, apricot and zesty lemon that coats the palate. Perfect now with fine oysters, grilled dorade, sole, cod and scallops with lemon. Or cellar - this wine should be very interesting in 5 to 15 years. Label inspired by Mondrian and the varied terroirs of Muscadet.
This fascinating wine is from a new parcel of 45 year-old vines, La Butte de la Roche, high on a dome of igneous rock with quartz stones and serpentine minerals overlooking the marshes of Goulaine. The young Pierre-Marie Luneau is in charge here and is doing great organic vineyard work, reclaiming this wonderful site with vines planted in 1974. The serpentine rock creates a very poor soil, giving wines that are normally somewhat austere and marked by intense minerality, enhanced by aging of 17 months on the lees. The 2018 is a superb wine showing ethereal aromas of stone, citrus and white fruits, with a dense stony palate showing subtle white fruits with hints of anise and mint. This will be delicious now with grilled fish, and should age beautifully for 15 to 20 years. David Lillie
This lovely wine clearly illustrates the difference between the granite and gneiss terroirs in Muscadet. Gras Moutons is a great parcel on gneiss, in layers that permit a deep penetration by the vines, with sandy clay and amphibolite stones. The vines are at the top of a hill and on the south-facing slope overlooking the Maine. (The name, by the way, does not refer to fat sheep, but rather in local dialect, to the hilltop vineyard site.) This terroir produces lovely, classic Muscadet to drink over the next 5 to 8 years, it has a more herbal and floral bouquet than the granite-based wines and the palate, although refreshing and bright, is softer and more open. The 2018 Gras Moutons is a sensational Muscadet showing a pale bronze color and beautiful aromas of ripe pear and quince with hints of anise, stone and almond; The palate is very dense and mineral with ripe pear and white peach, quite supple and ripe but framed in firm acidity. The finish is long and dense with white fruits, citrus and an almost bitter mineral aspect - this will pair beautifully with a full-flavored fish or chicken dish. Five to eight years of aging will bring out the complexity of this lovely wine. Highly recommended and a great value! David Lillie